Next man in.
That's the phrase Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has preached during the first three seasons of his tenure with the Irish, and it hasn't been as palpably relevant until the present.
Like an unexpected strike of lightning, news surfaced Saturday evening that incumbent starting quarterback Everett Golson, who led the Irish to January's BCS National Championship Game, was no longer enrolled at the school due to "poor academic judgment."
Since Golson's suspension spans the entirety of the fall semester, the 6'0", 185-pound quarterback will not be with the team for the 2013 season.
The timing of Golson's suspension couldn't have come at a worse time for the Irish, either.
Former 5-Star quarterback prospect Gunner Kiel, who spent his freshman season at Notre Dame, announced his intention to transfer to Cincinnati soon before the commencement of spring practices due to what is believed to be a desire for playing time.
Kiel may be feeling silly for making the decision to leave Notre Dame, though in a text message to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Columbus, Ind., native said, "I'm a Bearcat," when questioned about a possible return to Notre Dame.
Interestingly enough, Kiel could return to Notre Dame and be eligible to play this season, per NCAA rules expert, John Infante.
That's a highly unlikely scenario, leaving the Irish with three options at the quarterback position entering summer and fall camp.
The consensus belief is that Kelly will anoint Rees as the Irish's starting quarterback for the second time in his career, much to the chagrin of the fan base. You couldn't blame Kelly for choosing Rees—the Lake Forest, Ill., native is 14-4 as a starter, and boasts a wide disparity in experience against his competition.
Yet Rees' penchant for turning the ball over at critical junctures and his lack of mobility is more than enough to legitimately speculate about other possibilities.
Beneath Rees on the current depth chart is Andrew Hendrix, a former 4-Star prospect from Cincinnati, who has been a "bust" of sorts during his collegiate career. Accuracy, pocket presence and confidence are three red flags surrounding Hendrix, which are likely enough to cast him out of the discussion.
Remember, there's a reason Hendrix sank beneath both Rees and Golson on the depth chart during last fall camp.
That leaves with Notre Dame with its final option—Malik Zaire, a true freshman who enrolled for the spring semester and participated in spring practices.
There are two schools of thought surrounding the possibility of Zaire being crowned as the Irish's starter.
The first is that Zaire must redshirt as a freshman. Some will say despite the fact he enrolled early, his inexperience will only hinder the offense, and that he would be better suited learning through mental reps on the sideline.
The second belief is that because Zaire possesses such breathtaking talent, he would be a suitable replacement for Golson.
With the way Kelly has constructed his offense, mobility at the quarterback position is essential, particularly in the zone-read scheme he employs. With Zaire having been pegged as the "future" of the program, doesn't it make sense to get him the experience he needs in the absence of Golson?
Also if you think Golson returning to Notre Dame in 2014 is a guarantee, think again.
The fact of the matter is that this is Zaire's job to lose, and Kelly knows it.